Review: ‘Second Act’ Is a Toothless JLo Vehicle
Second Act is not a movie. It’s a custom-made project to suit the persona of its star, Jennifer Lopez. There is a conscious understanding on the movie’s part that it’s the appeal of the singer-actor that people are going to buy tickets for, and that’s all the brief they need to stick to.
Lopez plays Maya, a woman toiling hard in a supermarket. She is a highly capable individual who knows everything about retail sales but fails to advance to an executive position only because she has never been to college.
But thanks to a scheme planned by her best friend Joan (Leah Remini), and her son Dilly (Dalton Harrod), she lands the job of a senior consultant at a beauty conglomerate. Suddenly the working-class woman finds herself in a competition of sorts, being pitted against Ivy League graduates.
The film up to this point plays like a redux of Mike Nichols’ 1988 charmer Working Girl, enabling comedy to erupt in workplace hierarchies. Nothing unexpected, but all pleasant to swim along with.
But the screenwriting team (Justin Zackham and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas) has other plans up their sleeve. At the mid-point, the film introduces a sudden twist, a thing so unexpected that an office dramedy turns into a soapy melodrama. Vanessa Hudgens plays Zoe, the daughter of the company’s owner, and a high-flying degree holder who starts as a rival to Maya in office, but the story’s turn renders her toothless.
Director Peter Segal (50 First Dates, The Longest Yard, Get Smart) lights the film up like a holiday rendezvous, putting its star against shiny Christmassy backdrops, and cramming in all sorts of glossy clichés.
The narrative exists only to service its star, and what she means to her fans. And that’s a pity, because the film does shine at certain places, and Lopez does have it in her to sail a movie through. All she needs is a script that doesn’t obey, but challenges her.
(The writer is a journalist, a screenwriter, and a content developer who believes in the insanity of words, in print or otherwise. He tweets @RanjibMazumder)